Sarah Biffin was an English Miniature Painter and lived from 1784 until 1850.
Sarah Biffin was born in Somerset in 1784 with congenital deformity phocomelia (without fully developed arms or legs). Not letting this stop her, she taught herself to write, paint and hold scissors with her mouth as a child.
Her talent was recognized and Sarah first trained with a man named Dukes, before moving on to be tutored by Royal Academy of Arts painter William Craig.
Her talent as an artist together with her physiognomy made Sarah as a young teenager to travel the country as part of Emmanuel Dukes’ travelling show.
These travelling shows with their cast of people with unique physical or mental characteristics were popular into the 20th century and must be regarded with very mixed feelings - they allowed people to exhibit special skills, ensured them an income and great publicity, but also essentially made a spectacle of exhibiting the people themselves.
Sarah astutely used her publicity to cement her position as a skilled and respected artist whose work spoke for itself by the high quality of her fine brushstrokes and great skill at capturing likenesses.
The Society of Arts awarded her a medal in 1821 for a historical miniature and the Royal family commissioned miniature portraits by her.
Sarah nonetheless got into financial difficulties as her sponsor, the Earl of Morton, died in 1827, and her manager subsequently defrauded her. She had no resources to push the case in court and was left to rebuild her finances.
In 1824, Sarah married Stephen Wright and although the marriage did not last it secured to her the social benefit of the status of a married woman.
Queen Victoria later awarded her a pension and Sarah's supporters organised a subscription to support her financially and allow her to retire to Liverpool where she died aged 66 in 1850.